It looked for awhile there as if Jarret Stoll’s NHL career was over. Age, salary cap concerns and declining play had already made the two-time Stanley Cup winner a long shot to re-sign with the Kings, but his chances of hooking up with another club took a serious hit when he was charged with a felony count of cocaine possession in April.
The charge, which came after Stoll was arrested while entering a pool party at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, eventually was reduced to a pair of misdemeanors, prompting both a guilty plea and a promise from Stoll.
“Now that the case has been resolved, I am committed to meeting all of my obligations to the court and I'm grateful for the chance to offer guidance and to share positive life lessons to kids as part of the resolution of this matter,” he said in a statement. “My focus remains on hockey and I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice next season.”
Now he’ll get his chance. The 33-year-old center signed a one-year deal with the Rangers on Monday for $800,000.
Even with that small financial stake there’s still some risk involved for New York. Stoll will require more maintenance than most players, simply to ensure that there are no recurring problems. And there’s no guarantee that he’ll make the most of this opportunity. Ryan Malone, another player with drug issues, didn’t do much with the chance the Rangers gave him last season.
But from a purely hockey perspective, it’s a sound deal for the Blueshirts. Stoll won’t bring much offense, but that’s not what will be expected of the fourth-liner. Instead, he’ll be asked to bring a strong defensive game, to kill penalties and to dominate in the face-off circle. Though he won just 51% of his draws last season, he won 54.7% in 2013–14 and 56% in ’12–13. For a team that won just 46.7% of its draws last season (28th in the league) anyone who can push New York closer to 50/50 in the circle could be a significant add.
And for Stoll, the deal is a huge victory. Sure, he took a deep cut from the $3.25 million he made last season with Los Angeles, but this deal offers more than money. It’s a hand extended to a player who is looking to get his life back in order, a chance to prove that he still has something to offer the league and to society. Here’s hoping he makes the most of it.
Gallery: NHL players who have had brushes with the law